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Private tennis coach Andrey Portnoy conducts a lesson at the Surf & Turf Tennis Club on Sunday in Del Mar. Photo by Laura Place
Private tennis coach Andrey Portnoy conducts a lesson at the Surf & Turf Tennis Club on Sunday in Del Mar. Photo by Laura Place
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Surf & Turf Tennis Club faces possible closure for month of October

DEL MAR — Leaders of the Surf & Turf Tennis Club in Del Mar are working with the Fairgrounds to prevent a month-long closure of the facility in October when the club is between leases.

Back in August, the Del Mar Fairgrounds put out a request for proposals, or RFP, for a tennis center operator to take over the lease for the club once the current lease ends on Sept. 30. Longtime club operator Alex Levie surprised many when he announced that he would not submit a bid to renew his lease after being at the helm for over 30 years.

While three applicants did submit bids, the RFP was ultimately canceled in the interest of maintaining competition after the Del Mar Fairgrounds found two of the bids to be unqualified based on technicalities. A new RFP was issued on Aug. 29 with a pushed-back lease start date of Nov. 1, leaving a month-long gap without an insured operator.

At the 22nd District Agricultural Association board’s Sept. 14 meeting, Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore presented two possible solutions to avoid an October dark period — the district could manage the club themselves for a month, or another entity could take over operations under a one-month rental agreement.

“If an entity or even an individual came forward that could meet all the insurance requirements, indemnification and so on, and pay that fee to the district for the month of October; we could enter into a rental agreement for that month,” Moore said.

The Surf & Turf Tennis Club owned by the Del Mar Fairgrounds will be without an official operator during the month of October, with club leaders working to find a way to keep tennis activities going during that time. Photo by Laura Place
The Surf & Turf Tennis Club, owned by the Del Mar Fairgrounds, will be without an official operator for the month of October, with club leaders working to find a way to keep tennis activities going. Photo by Laura Place

Another option would have been for Levie to continue operating the club for another month, Moore said, but he declined to do so.

“We informed DAA more than a month ago that we would complete this by September 30 so they can put a new organization in place by their original Oct. 1 deadline,” Levie said. “Unfortunately, extending our process to wind down operations after we started making steps to do so was just not feasible for us.”

Several instructors at the tennis club expressed concerns to the Fairgrounds board about what this closure could mean for them and their students.

“As a full-time teaching pro at the club, my family depends on that income,” said instructor Jessica Frazee. “This not only affects my family but all of my students who I have taught week in and week out for seven years.”

Club staff also noted that a month-long closure would negatively impact students in local school districts who use the courts to complete physical education requirements.

Private tennis coach Andrey Portnoy conducts a lesson at the Surf & Turf Tennis Club in Del Mar on Saturday. Photo by Laura Place
Private tennis coach Andrey Portnoy at the Surf & Turf Tennis Club on Saturday in Del Mar. Photo by Laura Place

Club manager J.Z. Keegan said it would make the most sense for the current staff to manage the month-long gap rather than an outside group and offered to continue managing the club if the Fairgrounds itself could provide the necessary insurance.

“I am capable of managing Surf & Turf, but I would need the Fairgrounds to provide the insurance,” she said. “Please understand that an outside business coming in for one month probably wouldn’t be able to do all the moving parts.”

A meeting between Keegan and Fairgrounds officials is planned to take place Wednesday, Keegan said.

Surf & Turf Pro instructor Jason Woods said that with the planned leadership changes and possible closure in October, there has been “a lot of craziness going on, and stress.”

“I hope we can move quickly and find a way to keep the tennis courts’ lights on. Coaches are ready to coach, and the kids I know are ready to be coached and want to have a place to go in October,” Wood said.

The new tennis club operator will be awarded a one-year lease with the potential to extend it up to four additional years. Bids were due Sept. 15, and a notice of intent to award will be issued Sept. 26, followed by final approval of the contract by the Fairgrounds board at their Oct. 11 meeting.

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